Friday, July 29, 2011

Day 24: Rigatoni with Sausage and "Red Sauce"

One thing real quick before I dig in to today's meal.  I think I'm going to start updating during the day instead of late at night, it just seems like it works better with my schedule.

And with that, today's meal.  Today I went with something pretty standard for me, pasta with Italian sausage and a tomato sauce.  I went a little further than just heat pasta, heat sausage, add sauce from a jar.  The pasta was that simple, boil water, add salt, cook pasta.  The sausage was slightly more complicated, but not much.  For sausage I like to put down a small layer of olive oil and put down the sausage to crisp up the outside, but after a couple of minutes I add some kind of liquid to the oil and basically steam the sausage the rest of the way (while still cooking on the side that's down).  I prefer either a beer or red wine, but you can also use chicken or beef stock, I'd stay away from veggie stock though.

The sauce is where this meal got more involved.  As mentioned a few days ago, we were out of tomato sauce, so I decided to replace it with my own mixture.  Step one to a homemade tomato sauce is to sweat the standard aromatic mixture of carrot, onion and celery.  I always add garlic to the mixture as well, just because garlic is always good.  Before sweating the aromatics they need to be cut down to size.  Personally, I like them a super fine dice, almost to a puree, but that's just because I like a smoother sauce, if you like it chunkier, go for it.  Anyway, I tossed the veggie mix into my food processor and took it out for a spin until everything became a nice really fine paste.  That mixture goes into a pot with olive oil on the bottom and a pinch of salt before being set aside on the stove to sweat down and soften completely.

Once the aromatics have been sweated down you can add in the tomatoes.  I am a huge fanboy of the San Marzano canned tomatoes with basil.  Just make sure you get the ones actually from Italy, not the ones from Jersey.  They go into the pot whole with the extra sauce\juice and the bits of basil that are already in the can.  I use a wooden spoon or spatula to mash them up a bit as I mix the sauce, but you can also use a potato masher for it.  Now, the most important step in making any tomato sauce:  Add booze.  Seriously, you must add alcohol to the sauce otherwise it just won't taste right.  Personally I prefer a red wine, white wine or straight vodka (they each add something a little different so its a choice) and last night I went for the bottle of red, rather than the bottle of white.  It was just the kind of mood I was in that night (sorry, couldn't help myself).  You can also add a bit of stock (I use beef) especially if you haven't added any kind of meat yet.  I also like a bit of tomato paste, and a bit of ketchup, I know they both seem kinda weird and unnecessary, but they can add an extra layer to the flavor of the sauce.  The end result looks a bit like this:
At this point its time to start seasoning.  You can see the bay leaf I added in there in the photo above, but there's a lot more that goes into it.  The three most important seasonings (besides the booze) are salt, pepper and (personally) some basil.  The rest of the seasonings are mostly up to you, I tend to go a bit crazy with them (as you'll see in a second) but the main thing I do differently than a lot of people is that I like a bit of heat in my sauce.  I almost always add a bit of paprika, and some red pepper flakes.  You can see the full collection (well most of it) of seasonings I used in the photo below.
Basically its Bay leaves, marjoram, thyme, taragon, basil, parsley, and oregano.  I also tossed in some garlic and onion powder, along with the aforementioned heat.  Once its seasoned, set it aside on a really low heat to bubble for an hour or so.  I had it on the lowest heat my stove can do which was just enough to keep it bubbling and reducing slightly (I keep the lid over top of the pot but with the lid slightly skewed so it lets the steam out).  In terms of timing, I cooked the sauce, then the pasta and sausage after letting it bubble for a full hour.  I was really pleased with it overall, and now I have sauce for a bunch of different things over the next few days, so be ready for those.  But now, its Friday, and that means magic!  (probably)

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